U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Capital Habeas Matter Involving Challenges To Victim Impact Statements, and Other Criminal Matters

In US v. Grooms, No. 07-1384, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's drug and firearm possession convictions, holding that the search of defendant's vehicle was supported by independent probable cause because the police had reason to believe the car would contain evidence relevant to a threat made by defendant.

In Storey v. Roper, No. 08-2936, a capital habeas matter, the court of appeals affirmed the denial of petitioner's habeas petition, on the grounds that 1) petitioner had an opportunity to interview the victim impact witnesses presented during sentencing before their testimony, and he had the opportunity (though he did not take it) to cross-examine the witnesses; 2) in light of all of the other relevant and admissible evidence presented at the third penalty-phase trial, a photo of the victim's tombstone did not render the penalty-phase trial fundamentally unfair; 3) based upon the Supreme Court's definition of "acquittal" in the context of a death sentence as explicated in Poland, petitioner had never been acquitted of the death penalty; and 4) petitioner failed to present new reliable evidence that he was innocent of the crime of which he was convicted.

In US v. Cosey, No. 09-1266, the Eighth Circuit defendant's affirmed cocaine base distribution sentence, on the grounds that 1) Eighth Circuit precedent established that Kimbrough did not require a district court to consider the crack-powder disparity when sentencing for a crack offense; 2) defendant offered no support for his contention that he should have been compared to defendants whose career offender Guidelines range was 292 to 326 months; 3) coconspirator guilt was not the exclusive avenue of proof of conspiratorial involvement for a leadership enhancement; and 4) it was not clearly improbable that the weapon was connected with the offense.

In US v. Byers, No. 09-1917, the court of appeals affirmed defendant's firearm possession conviction, holding that 1) the characteristics of the ammunition and the magazine provided the jury with the context in which this crime occurred, and the information was thus relevant and the prosecutor was not guilty of misconduct in presenting it to the jury; and 2) police observation of defendant's brief possession of a firearm was sufficient to support a conviction.

In US v. Coleman, No. 09-2389, the Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for firearm and drug possession, on the grounds that 1) the stop of defendant's vehicle was lawful because of the officer's observation of a traffic violation for double parking; 2) defendant's argument that an instructional error affected defendant's substantial rights failed because defendant did not demonstrate prejudice.

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